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Post Padme Perspective
Compiled by Lalitha Venkat
e-mail: lalvenkat@yahoo.com
   
September 12, 2014

Belgian/Dutch choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman who is trained in Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance ideated Padme in Europe two years ago with Dutch dancers. Produced by Arangham Trust, Anita Ratnam invited Kalpana to choreograph the Padme project on Indian dancers, for which the music and choreography have been licensed from Korzo Productions in The Hague. An audition was held in which 7 dancers from Bangalore were chosen to perform in Padme. Over two sessions of training, Kalpana re-set and re-framed her original concept onto the bodies of these classically trained Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancers from Bangalore. The premiere of Padme was held on August 9, 2014 at NGMA in Bangalore and attended by a full hall.

Post Padme, the dancers share the experience of how it was to leave their classical styles and learn modern movement patterns.

Ashwini Raghupathy (ashwini.arpan@gmail.com)
It has taken me one year to gain perspective and understand Anita Ratnam’s vision in initiating Padme. I auditioned last year during August, when I saw the call for classical dancers simply out of the respect I had for Anita akka’s caliber as an artiste. By the time we had completed the first phase in January, I was ridden with doubts as to whether I would be able to do justice to the project. Firstly because I realized that it was a long term project, not something you did for one season alone. Also it was an ambitious project which aimed to break new ground. Then the project was at its nascent stage and there were no terms dictated to us dancers. As I was running around at that time handling the business of my classical dance career, I wondered if I would have the time I knew this project clearly needed and deserved.

However over the next few weeks when we were on a break, the distance helped me see things much clearer than before. What project I had thought of as only working in, became to me something totally different. I began to see how the absolute newness and freshness of this idea had such great potential in it for growth. How what appeared to be unclear was an open space for us to explore, how the non-dictatorial management was a tool which had empowered all of us dancers to take up ownership of the project; it was then that I truly joined Padme, when I stepped up to understand this project called for not just my mere involvement but my taking up ownership and responsibility in a shared vision.

The second phase of Padme was a whole new experience for me. As the experience is still fresh, I am able to recall the absolute involvement each of us shared to make this happen. It was three weeks of hard core eight hours of dancing a day. It was working under the nurturing guidance of Kalpana Raghuraman’s choreography. It was a lot of work, trying out ideas, building some, breaking down some, some frustrations and a lot of laughs. We were all incredibly fit at the end of the three weeks and had grown really strong bonds as a team.

It was honestly for me the first time in a project that somebody went to such great lengths to take care of ensuring lovely rehearsal spaces, snacks, beautiful performance venues, best light and sound, costumes, PR, keeping group morale and every other slightest detail you could imagine (or couldn't even!). We were only expected to dance and think. For that, Anita Akka, you rock! Nobody can imagine an idea like this and execute it with so much class. I feel sorry for the dancers who missed the auditions for Padme last year.

Sukruti Tirupattur (sukruti.tiru@gmail.com)   
Padme was the first production I worked on after graduating from Kalakshetra. My growth with Padme reflects my own personal growth. It was a parallel of my own journey as an individual. A journey that helped me step into more of me! I was one of those who misinterpreted precision and understanding of form to be tight muscles and stress on certain body parts by holding them back. Isn’t movement a whole? Padme gave me the opportunity to explore the joys of movement and replaced my insecurity with confidence, a confidence which wants to let me explore more and not shut my doors with a hollow satisfaction.
 
I was one of those too, who didn’t believe that cross training made my dancing better. I was too caught up proving to the world that I had finally got it right. In the process, I had ignored to recognize that every form of dance works by letting us understand our bodies better in their own special way. It is an opportunity to develop a greater understanding with our bodies and how they respond to movement. How they too have the ability to invoke emotion and expression. When a “classical dancer” talks about “contemporary dancing,” there is always some kind of a criticism around. It is neither a conversion nor a shift in loyalty. It is simply a wider understanding we get as dancers. 
 
Thanks to Kalpana Raghuraman, this is the first time I realized the specialty in “being you.” I discovered the language of the body and the importance of being US on stage. Not a “classical dancer”, “a name to stand up to” but just us! I became friendlier and connect better with my body now. This has immensely helped me in my teaching too. I am a kinder and more sensible teacher to realize what looks good on a particular student or how he or she can do it to enhance his or her own style and presence. 
 
Padme released my mind from definitions. I am freer as a dancer and more open as an individual today. I look forward to more fun and exploration. It was wonderful to work with such amazingly talented dancers under one roof, each one so encouraging and supportive of the other. Eating together, sharing concerns and seeking support all together like a family! Padme has widened my spectrum of possibilities and I am really glad I chose to be a part of it. 

Keerthana Ravi (keerthanaravi18@gmail.com)    
Padme happened to me at the most opportune time just when I quit the corporate scene to pursue a career in dance. It was also a time when I was beginning to question movement, the choice of items and my approach to dance. The exposure and experience throughout Padme really helped me to delve into my notions of what dance ought to be and gave me a fresh perspective. I'm grateful to Anita Ratnam ma'am for giving me this platform to discover a new idiom and form. Initially I was apprehensive and felt that it would ‘corrupt’ my Bharatanatyam but it actually aided my stamina and helped improve my lines. To be part of a pioneering effort in the dance circuit and a model never explored before was thoroughly enjoyable. As a producer, Anita ma'am was excellence personified. She took care of our needs and at every step was part of the evolution of our piece and personal journeys during Padme.

Kindness with firmness is what I’d like to call Kalpana akka’s approach to teaching us. Dealing with dancers from multi-disciplinary forms with varied potential and inhibitions and letting them lose that and making them work like a team in a fortnight is no mean task.  The fact that she didn’t let any of those differences play out in rehearsals but used them to the group’s advantage was commendable. The best thing was that she would push you to work harder on yourself but with such gentleness that it was a pleasure. Being a choreographer often would keep you at a hierarchal pedestal but not once did we feel that she was calling the shots and we had to just follow orders. Such a welcome change!

As a dancer her style, form and attention to detail is enviable. I have learnt a lot from her beyond movement. It’s about dealing with people, helping them overcome their limitations which Kalpana did very beautifully. The premiere of Padme was amazing with an enviable audience and it was an impeccable almost dream like evening. I'm looking forward to my journey with Padme and I'm very happy it is going to go places and be the new change in the dance circle.

Meenakshi GK (meensi.22@gmail.com)
For me Padme truly has been an inspirational experience. I've grown in thinking, conceptualization and creativity as a dancer. It has helped me broaden my horizon about dance and movement. Another major experience and learning is about the utilization of energy and trying to connect the same with the audience and other co-dancers. Padme has taught me what contemporary dancing really means.

Working with Kalpana akka and the other fantastic dancers was thoroughly enjoyable. Each one of us had such unique ideas which made working and dancing fun and interesting. I have learnt how to perform by being myself. It’s made me realize that complexity is not essentially necessary to make a movement look nice. It could just be simple but yet powerful. I believe that Padme is going to be a great journey for all of us, filled with lots of learning, hard work, excitement, joy, creativity and craziness.  It has helped me blossom as a dancer.

Meghna Venkat (meghna.venkat@gmail.com)
Padme - The life of lotus, its slow and steady process of growing from the shady depths of water to bright sunshine is the same process that I went through during the journey. Padme was a complete voyage of erudition. Dance went beyond the discovery of movements of hands, legs and face. I learnt that it was with the help of entire body from the core to the tips of head, toes and fingers that the body moves to express and not just the face and mudras! Every morning we would commence with a warm up which I used to enjoy, since it was very helpful for the rest of the day. We would all then start with our rehearsals. Kalpana akka was a fantastic person who understood us very well, made us do what we were comfortable in and also stretch us more so we learn further! It was such an adorable blend of everything.

I must at this point, thank a few people in the journey who corrected my movements in the contemporary style in the limited time. Nakula, who just turned the wheels for me in the way of thinking and using the body and Ashwin Mohan, who taught how to deal with my body. Kalpana akka used to ask us to create our own movements and this made me think about different steps using the classical movements yet unlike the classical way. I feel Padme not only made a difference in movements but also made a whole world of difference in my way of looking at life. Now, I look into myself and take things in good stride all the time. Being over sensitive is long gone and positivity floats in my blood. 

I am very thankful to my childhood which developed me into a good organiser and in Padme I used it a lot. I organized rehearsals, studios, timings, other classes et al, and the best part is when somebody recognizes and appreciates it! Yes, we are artists. Thanks to our producer who is the finest! Whose gifts we used to await, whose words we used to look for and whose presence make us feel important! I learnt so many things from every dancer and I am sure our friendship shall continue for life. Padme on the whole was an incredible experience with fun, education, dance and life. Anita ma’am and Kalpana akka have taken my life into another platform which consists of things which I cannot even imagine being without.

Sabyasachi Chatterjee (savi.cha007@gmail.com)
Padme was a wonderful experience. When I got invitation from Anita akka for audition last August, little did I foresee that I would get different experiences that I never had in my 11 year dance career. During rehearsal I faced difficulties like traveling 50 km per day during office time, some minor injuries etc but I didn’t give up.  I have worked with many choreographers but Kalpana akka’s approach is different from others. Being a freelance dancer, I could not give up my other commitments but she adjusted work accordingly and with her support, I could do my best in Padme.

While I have worked with many producers and choreographers, this is the first time I did not feel dominated or manipulated. I felt like an artiste and received proper respect from everyone directly or indirectly involved with Padme and I am grateful. My co-dancers were very supportive.  I feel our country needs more projects like Padme where upcoming dancers will get proper respect, security and freedom in a disciplined way. Thanks to Anita akka for giving us this wonderful platform and thanks to Kalpana akka for giving us this wondrous concept of choreography.

View Slide show

Anita Ratnam & Arangham Trust presented Float & Padme
August 9, 2014 at NGMA, Bangalore
Photos: M Vivekanandan

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